Environment

New fissure, air quality concerns, and two Volcanic Ash Advisories


The eruption of lava continues from multiple points along the northeast end of the active fissure system. Residents in lower Puna are advised to remain informed and heed Hawaii County Civil Defense closures, warnings, and messages.

A new eruption began around 08:00 local time, May 14 in the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision on Hawaii’s Big Island, bringing the total number of active fissures in the ongoing East Rift Zone eruption at Kilauea Volcano to nineteen.

It has been spotted very near fissure 15, just northeast of Pohoiki Road and north of Hinalo Street at the east end of Lanipuna Gardens, producing a sluggish lava flow. 

Video of erupting fissures and latest update:  

While lava flowed sluggishly at this vent, fissure #17 produced quite a show on May 13, displaying molten fountains up to 30.5 m (100 feet) high, explosive steam jets from time to time, and lava bombs that soared as much as 150 m (500 feet) into the air. 

These jets may be responsible for some of the loud sounds reported by residents and emergency workers. 

Volcanic gas emissions remain elevated throughout the area downwind of the vents, USGS said.

Local media source Civil Beat streamed the dramatic lava fountaining live on Facebook.

By 06:30 local time., Fissure 17’s lava flow was just under 1.6 km (1 mile) and moving parallel to one of the few roads in the area towards the sea. 

Fortunately, no homes or roads are threatened by this flow, although Hawaii County officials reported the loss of one structure yesterday.

This increased activity is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases. 

The Hawaii Department of Health and county Civil Defense personnel warned vulnerable people – babies, young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems – as well as residents living near fissures or downwind from the lava to avoid exposure to dangerous gases that can travel surprisingly far on the wind.  

Satellites, for example, have tracked fumes from the May 6th eruption in Leilani Estates for almost 140 km (90 miles) out to sea. 

People are following local conditions with the online Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard at https://vog.ivhhn.org/. Vog is a portmanteau word for “volcanic fog.”

At Kilauea’s summit, volcanologists reported some unusual activity in the Halema’uma’u Crater around midday that turned the volcano’s typically white plume of steam and gas brown with ash.  There was enough ash to prompt two separate advisories from NOAA’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) in Washington State, in addition to its routine morning statement on this eruption.

The Washington VAAC is part of an international monitoring network that helps pilots avoid volcanic ash clouds that can damage or even shut down aircraft engines in mid-flight.

Video documentation of Kilauea’s noon-time summit activity was included in HVO scientist-in-charge Tina O’Neal’s daily update on the eruption. 

She reported that this is not the possible big steam-driven eruption that has forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Instead, she said, the extra ash in the plume may be coming from lava mixing with rock that has fallen into the volcano’s throat.

At both the summit and the East Rift, scientists, as well as local residents whose lives and property are already impacted by this eruption, now await Kilauea Volcano’s next move.

An early morning view of fissure 17 on May 14, still erupting and supplying lava to a flow that was still advancing (out of view). View is looking toward the east. Photograph courtesy of the Hawai`i County Fire Department.

Photograph courtesy of the Hawai`i County Fire Department.

Featured image: An early morning view of fissure 17 on May 14, still erupting and supplying lava to a flow that was still advancing (out of view). View is looking toward the east. Photograph courtesy of the Hawai`i County Fire Department.





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